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Mylo Xyloto? We have no idea either. But Coldplay is back

By Richard Poplak 27 October 2011

It’s Coldplay time again. Yes – the best band in the world, as far as weepy drunk people are concerned, is ready for download with an unpronounceable album and a South Africa shot video clip. Rejoice – your karaoke selection just broadened. By RICHARD POPLAK.

It’s indicative of Coldplay’s status as the world’s other, other falsetto arena band that few critics have summoned the energy to bash their new record, Mylo Xyloto. Since their incomparably vast sophomore effort, Rush of Blood to the Head, with ubiquitous wedding songs Clocks and The Scientist, they have come in for all measure of opprobrium. To mushy, too pretentious, too popular, too pretty. All of which is entirely valid. And yet, Coldplay have delivered fresh verse-chorus-verse hits for over a decade, and the same cannot be said of anyone else. Rock has all but disappeared from the charts; they keep the gate. And in their new video, they’re keeping it in South Africa.

Indeed, Martin and his chums recently romped around this country in wacky elephant suits, filming the promo clip for lead single Paradise. If there is anything that finally does Johannesburg’s street cred in, it’s that we allowed Chris Martin – Chris freaking Martin! – to pronk about the city dressed as a pachyderm, without doing him for his wallet and vintage Casio. Shame on us.

That said, everything in the video speaks of the band’s appeal. For one thing, they don’t take themselves particularly seriously. That misconception was a result, mostly, of the Yellow video, from their Parachutes debut, in which Martin walks down a beach, brooding. (It was meant to be shot on a sunny day; the resulting rainy clip turned transformed indie nobodies into superstars.) It also doesn’t help that their album titles seem dreamed up by an 11-year-old who has recently listened to Supertramp.

No, Coldplay want to be liked. They want you to keep their discography on your music listening device of choice, and they want you to come to see them at FNB stadium, two nights running. And so Mylo Xyloto, a concept album about, um, concepts, is bright and shiny and utterly likeable. With knob twiddling from Brian Eno (a nod to U2’s legacy, of which Martin and the gang are preternaturally aware), the production is as crisp as new chardonnay.

Watch: Music video of Coldplay’s Paradise.

There is, of course, abject sappiness: Us Against The World is what your 2011 metrosexual will use to get the pants off a new partner. The band’s rhythm section – always a strong point – provide beautiful strings, and Martin works the ivories to maximum heart-swelling effect, which is his not so secret super-weapon. “Through chaos as it swirls,” intones he, “it’s us against the world.”

Then we leap back into arm waving arena territory with Every Teardrop as it Falls, what I’d deem an experimental Coldplay track. (There’s some vaguely electronic sounding stuff on it.) But this isn’t Pop, thank God – Coldplay are too savvy, and perhaps too true to themselves, to stray from what makes them successful.

As Coldplay goes, so goes the music industry. The pressure on them for a three-peat with X+Y was insane and they didn’t deliver creatively. Their brand wasn’t damaged, and they followed up with their most ambitious and bombastic album yet in Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Expectations for the current album are ridiculously outsized, but it’s nothing to Martin and pals, at this point. They’re used to it. And indeed, they make good.

Fifty million records sold to date, and probably a few million more with Xylo in the bag. They are not the best band in the world – not by a long shot – and they haven’t even released the best Coldplay-ish album this year. (That would be M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which is a lesson in what a man, a falsetto and a strings budget can do.) But they are consistent, rigorous, hardworking and professional. Apparently that’s half the battle.  

Every BMW 1-series is currently pumping the new album to the heavens, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Bounce your head, don an elephant costume and go dance around the country. Worked for Chris Martin; might well work for you. DM



Coldplay’s lead vocalist Chris Martin performs on stage during the band’s world presentation of their new album Mylo Xyloto at Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring on 26 October, 2011.

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